Arundel Castle

West Sussex


'Oft on the mouldering Keep by night

Earl Roger takes his stand,

With the sword that shone at Hastings' fight,

Firm grasped in his red, right hand ! '


This is how an ancient poem begins about Roger de Montgomery who it was believed had fought alongside Duke William at Hastings. In fact Roger de Montgomery wasn't at the Battle of Hastings, but was left at home to look after Normandy for William while he was in England. He contributed greatly to the invasion force and was to be richly rewarded for his loyal services.

Duke William, now King William, bestowed upon him the Earldoms of Shrewsbury and Arundel, of which the latter consisted of the rape and honour of the district, as well as the rape of Chichester, which made him Lord of 84 manors. He also founded the Abbey at Shrewsbury in 1083, which he is reputed to have entered 3 days before his death, yet legend has it that his ghost haunts the magnificent keep at Arundel.

After the Norman Conquest, King William divided the County of 'Sudsexe' (Sussex) into six 'rapes' - Chichester, Arundel, Bramber, Lewis, Pevensey, and Hastings. Each one commanded a harbour or river, along with a carefully sited Castle, and the 'rape' system in Sussex cannot be found in any other County. The origin of the term 'rape' is unknown but it is believed to come from the Icelandic measure, 'hrapa' or it could well come from the Norman French word, 'rapiner' to plunder. There is evidence that William systematically laid waste to much of the County in his efforts to form a strong bridgehead for his troops; Sussex was the nearest County to Normandy where reinforcements could be rushed in the event of a Saxon revolt, and in every Sussex 'rape', lesser castles and towers were built to support the main castle.

The origins of Arundel are vague and much of what the visitor sees today is the result of 18th and 19th century reconstruction, although according to local folklaw King Alfred is said to have had fortifications here, but there is no evidence of this site. Over the river at Warningcamp, high on the opposite side of the Arun are the ancient remains of defensive earthworks, but very little is known about them.


The castle keep at Arundel.

When the castle was built at Arundel it soon started to gather its history as time progressed. Kings and Queens, Empresses and Princes, have all stayed at Arundel, each and every one of them adding to the story of this magnificent Castle.

Earl Roger de Montgomery founded the first castle at Arundel on Christmas Day 1067. It was after King William had held his Christmas Court at Gloucester and awarded Montgomery the Earldom, that he ordered him to build a castle on the Arun to protect the inland reaches. Roger de Montgomery was already an extremely powerful man in his native Normandy and had been a close friend of William's since William was a teenager as he was his cousin. He was present at the Council of Lillebonne in 1066, and agreed to contribute 60 ships to aid the invasion plans of England. He returned with William from Normandy in 1067 and he was summoned to attend Chrismas at Gloucester with the king where he was awarded his honours as one of William's most trusted men.

Earl Roger immediately started to build a classic motte and bailey castle of timber on his Sussex estate. It was planned with a central motte between two baileys, rather than the single bailey of most Norman castles and was similar in consruction to the double bailey plan of Grimboscai in Normandy, South of Caen.The Earthworks at Arundel were begun in 1068 and are still in superb condition. They consist of a central motte protected by a deep fosse (dry ditch) on the west side. The motte is 100ft high from the bottom of the ditch and 69ft high on its inner side with a total dimesion north to south of 950 ft. The original timbers were gradually replaced with stone, starting first with the curtain wall and gatehouse, which still survive with its original retangular portcullis groove.

In 1071 Roger was made Earl of Shrewsbury, and although these lands were not in control of the Crown, the new Earl added his own special share to the conquest at the expense of the Welsh. This was done by setting up political govenment and a well devised scheme of castle-building. He later secretly supported the Conqueror's eldest son, Robert Duke of Normandy, in his claim against William Rufus, but took no active part in the rebellion. Roger de Montgomery died in 1094 and was succeeded at Arundel by his son, Robert, known as Robert de Belleme.

The apartments at Arundel

Robert de Belleme was a very hard and cruel man who was very keen on military architecture. He set out to strengthen all his properties with a series of building plans, probably to keep out all those who sought to have him dead as he had many enemies. Belleme rebelled against Henry I in 1102 and supported Henry's brother Robert in Normandy. However, he was soon punished for his disloyalty. While Robert was away, the castle at Arundel was besieged and only surrendered after 3 months, after which Robert was banished for life, his lands and possessions confiscated by the Crown.

After Henry I's death it was given to his second wife Adeliza of Louvain.. In 1138 she married William D'Albini II and they went on to live at Arundel. D'Albini was a great builder who also gained other lands. He built the magnificent square keep at Castle Rising, (also featured as a prevous site on these pages) as well as the Castle at New Buckenham. He was made Earl of Sussex on his marriage and constructed the fantastic keep at Arundel which still survives today. It was built of Caen stone which was brought over from Normandy, and Quarr Abbey stone from the Isle of Wight. It is in fact an irregular oval in its plan with walls 27 ft high and 10 feet thick, the exterior is smooth stone punctuated at intervals with small buttresses. By the standards of the time, the interior of the keep would have been luxurious and richly decorated, fit for a Queen dowager, but would also have served as the administrative centre for the district.

The year following their marriage in 1139 they invited the Empress Matilda, daughter of Henry I to stay, as she intended to press her claim to the throne from Stephen. Stephen threatened to besiege Arundel and a safe passage was quickly established for her to go to Bristol . Matilda continued with her rightful claim to the throne, but was unsuccessful, although she did manage to get Stephen to agree that her eldest son Henry would inherit the Crown on his death. D'Albini continued to own Arundel until his death in 1176 when it again came under the Crown, this time owned by Henry II, Matilda's son.

Henry II stayed at the Castle in 1182 and on many other occasions. He spent vast sums on improvements mainly to the domestic facilities of the castle, and added a new domestic range by the south bailey. Some of this work is still to be seen as part of the new buildings erected in the last 200 years. It is two storeys high, in the south wing of the present castle. The Castle returned to the D'Albini family under Richard Coeur de Lion and several 'fines' were paid to the Crown for the family to retain possession. Hugh de Albini was the last of his line when he died young in 1243.


The castle gatehouse built around 1080

John Fitzalan of Clun, who had married Hugh de Albini's daughter Isobel, acquired the Castle and Honour of Arundel. The Fitzalan's were to hold the castle in an almost uninterrupted line until 1555 when Mary Fitzalan, last of the family, married Thomas, 4th Duke of Norfolk, thereby carrying Arundel into the Howard family where it remains to this day.

John Fitzalan died in 1272 and Arundel passed to his five year old son, Richard. In 1285 King Edward I granted the right to hold two fairs a year at Arundel and to tax the goods there. This created additional much needed cash to renovate the castle and buildings, as many had fallen into disrepair through neglect or lack of money. In 1289 Richard was created Earl of Arundel by 'Longshanks' and the two became good friends. Richard fought with the King against the Scots and he is described on the Rolls of the Siege of Caerlaverock in 1300:

' A handsome and well-loved Knight, I saw there richly armed in red with gold lion rampant '

He was responsible for much building work at Arundel which included the reconstruction of the entrance to the keep, the Well Tower and the barbican with two square towers in front of the Norman gateway, which was also heightened. Richard, the 1st Fitzalan Earl died at the age of 35 in 1302.

The next hundred years saw the fortunes rise and fall for the Fitzalan's. Richard's son , Edmund 2nd Earl was beheaded after getting caught up in the rebellion against Edward II. He was caught by Queen Isabella's lover, Mortimer and executed without trial in Hereford. Arundel passed to the Earl of Kent, 6th son of Edward I, but he was also beheaded when the castle was returned to the Fitzalans 4 years later.

Richard Fitzalan, 3rd Earl took part in the Battle of Crecy with Edward III and the young Black Prince of Wales. Every proud Englishman and Welshman did their part for their King and Country that day against overwhelming odds. He returned home from Calais a hero and later obtained the estates of the de Warenne family when his Uncle, the Earl of Surrey died. He was responsible for much rebuilding at Arundel and also responsible for the beautiful Fitzalan Chapel which was built according to the terms of his will.

The entrance to the Fitzalan Chapel

His son, another Richard, became the 4th Earl and is remembered for his treachery to Richard II. He began by actively supporting the King but later changed sides. He often received harsh treatment from Richard II and on the occasion of Queen Anne's burial, Richard had him thrashed with a stick for being late and wanting to go early. The King later had him executed and awarded Arundel to his friend John Holland, Duke of Exeter.

His daughter, Elizabeth Fitzalan's marriage to Thomas Mowbray, 1st Duke of Norfolk, which brought together the Fitzalan Family and Norfolk family.

Arundel was returned to the Fitzalan's when Henry IV had Holland beheaded and gave Arundel to the great Thomas Fitzalan,5th Earl of Arundel. After Richard II was under the control of Bolingbroke, Thomas Fitzalan was appointed as one of his Governors. He married Beatrice, the daughter of John I of Portugal and became the first member of the family to be buried in the Chapel. They both take top billing in front of the Altar with their fine tomb effigies of carved alabaster.

He also played an important role in the Hundred Years War and at home. He was with Henry IV when he invaded Wales in pursuit of the elusive Owen Glendower. He commanded one of the three units that drove deep into the Welsh mountains, the others being commanded by the King and the other by a young Prince Henry, later to be Henry V. He excelled himself again in 1411 when with 1,200 men, he sailed from Dover to Sluys and marched to Paris in aid of John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy who was allied with the English at the time. In many ways this trip was a huge success, they had a sharp encounter at St Cloud and distinguished themselves as they aided Fearless to take control of Paris from the Armagnacs, eventually driving them beyond the Loire. He was later with Henry V at Harfleur where he caught dysentery and died leaving no heir.

Another Fitzalan to excel in the War was John, 7th Earl. He stood over six feet tall and was nicknamed the 'English Achilles' and was a distinguished soldier. He was created Duke of Touraine by the Regent Bedford in 1434 but died the following year after having his leg amputated after the Battle of Beauvais. He was brought back and buried in the Fitzalan Chapel minus his leg and his splendid Tomb can be seen today. One effigy of him in full armour and the other below of him in Death.

William Fitzalan the 9th Earl was also a Knight of the Garter and served as Governor of Dover and Warden of the Cinque ports, a title which came with being Governor of Dover.

The Fitzalan line drew to a close when Mary Fitzalan, daughter of Henry, 12th earl of Arundel, married Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk. Thomas was beheaded in 1557 by Elizabeth I for his relationship and treachery with Mary Queen of Scots.

Of the Howard family one member earns a mention in particular. Thomas, 3rd Duke of Norfolk played in the dangerous politics of Henry VIII's Court. To increase his influence at Court he managed to marry off two of his nieces to Henry. Ann Boleyn, his 2nd wife and Katherine Howard his 5th wife. Both were exploited by their uncle and both met their ends on the block. Thomas did nothing to stop their beheading for fear of Henry. He had his daughter married to one of Henry's illigitimate sons, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond, but he died before the marriage could be consummated. His son was executed on a trumped up charge of treason and Thomas himself only avoided death by the early death of Henry VIII.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Thomas Howard 14th Earl of Arundel, was out of the Country. Arundel castle was claimed by the Royalists and between 20th December 1643 and 6th January 1644, it was put under seige by General Sir William Waller. The effects were devastating and the Norman gatehouse still bears the scars from the battering. The seige was fully recorded and such was the damage that ;

'The roofless apartments were left to moulder in neglect or sink beneath the ravages of the elements.'

And this is how the castle was to remain until the mid-18th century.

In 1716 the 8th Duke intended to build a new house on the site but instead rebuilt some of the south range. Further repairs were undertaken to the house but not the castle. In 1787 the 11th Duke, Charles Howard was an amateur architect and had a good friendship with the Prince Regent. He decided to completely reconstruct the castle to his own designs. The works were completed in 1815 at a cost of £600,000.

Queen Victoria stayed here in 1846 (you can still see her bed) but what she saw of the castle is not what you see today. Henry Granville, 14th Duke began to reconstruct the castle again but he died before it was completed. His son Henry, 15th Earl completed his work with the help of C.A.Bucker, a leading Architect in Antiquary Designs. Their work was completed between 1875-1900 with many of the interior features of previous reconstructions being kept.

Before the restoration of the keep, which was left in ruin for its picturesque beauty, the Dukes used to keep a colony of owls. A tradition exists at the castle where, when a family member is about to die, a white owl is seen fluttering at one of the windows.

© MWC1998

The curtain wall

Arundel Castle additional information

Arundel Castle is owned by Miles Francis, 17th Duke of Norfolk, Earl Marshal of England.

Open - April to the end of October, but check before visiting for the latest information

Hours Sunday - Friday, 12 Noon - 1700. *Closed on Saturdays* and Good Friday.

Entry - Again, check with the castle for the latest entry fees.

Telephone 01903 882173.

Local Tourist Information 61 High Street, Arundel, West Sussex. 01903 882268.

OS Map - Map No 197/198 Ref TQ018074

** There is no Photography or Video allowed inside of the Castle or Chapel at Arundel **

Arundel Castle

Arundel Castle has been painted by Turner, Constable, Prout and Vicat Cole in all its ancient glory. It stands in its prominant position looking out across the Arun guarding the landscape and is famous throught the world as one of the mighty strongholds of our Island.

The town of Arundel is rather small, but beautifully sited around the Castle walls. There are good parking facilities available within a short walking distance of the Castle Entrance. The town itself has some fine shops and also a wealth of excellent second hand bookshops for that elusive book you've always sought.

The Castle has suffered some severe critcism in the past for its reconstruction work, a little unjustly I may add, as what the visitor sees today is mainly 18th and 19th century reconstruction. It has been said that the Victorians have been guilty of mis-interpreting the medieval interiors, while they may have been guilty of handing a rather false image down, I feel their work should be seen as tribute to the masterly skills taken in its construction. The work is a lot harder on the eye (all those vast expanses of blank stone on the exterior) than many other Gothic reconstructions but inside, their work is a joy to the eye.

Arundel is perfect for a day out, a visit to the shops in the morning followed by the Castle as it opens at noon. The park and gardens are beautifully kept and are perfect for picnics. The tour of the castle is superb with something for eveyone as you wander from room to room completely in awe of your surroundings. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit after having driven past time and time again as a small boy, staring wided eyed in a dream up at the huge castle walls.

The area has a wealth of medieval buildings and history, the City of Chichester is only 8 miles away with the wonderful Cathedral. The small town of Boxgrove is just outside Chichester on the way from Arundel where the famous Boxgrove man was dug up. There is also the delightful Priory here which I shall feature in the future on these pages along with one or two other sites from this area.

There is also the small village of Bosham the other side of Chichester where King Harold came from and the lovely Saxon Church where he worshipped remains almost unchanged. A beautiful waterfront village, Harold also set off from here on his trip to Normandy as seen in the Bayeux tapestry.

Many will people will have noticed that I havn't included any Pictures from inside the new castle and of the Chapel. There is strictly no photography allowed inside so you shall have to go there to see them. It is well worth it !

Some people may be a little disappointed that I've only written on the history of Arundel during the Fitzalan's period and before, I personally find the Medieval History more interesting and this site is about medieval buildings. Much of Arundel has been built since the 18th and 19th centuries and so falls outside the period of this site.

© MWC1998

Local attractions include ANGMERING PARK, which came into being in 1975 following the death of Duke Bernard, the 16th Duke of Norfolk..

Duke Bernard died with no immediate male heir. The one Scottish title he possesed, Baron Herries of Terregles, went to the eldest of four daughters, Lady Anne. The Dukedom, the Castle, Arundel Park and half of the old Arundel Estate passed to the present Duke and his family. The remaining land, roughly half, comprising a crescent shape around the old Park became Angmering Park.

Angmering Park is run by the Angmering Park Estate Trust and is administered on behalf of the four daughters of the late Duke Bernard. The estate is 9000 acres in size and is made up of:- Angmering Park Stud, Angmering Park Racing Stables, Lee Farm., Dover Farm., Two other let farms and forestry.


Information on Arundel Castle was obtained from :

The Gesta Guillelmi of William of Poitiers - Ed RHC Davis & Marjorie Chibnall.

History of the Norman Kings by William of Malmesbury - Ed Joseph Stevenson.

English Historical Documents 1040-1189 - ED David Douglas, George W Greenaway

Arundel Castle - John Martin Robinson.

Castles in Sussex - John Guy.

The Castle in Medieval England and Wales - Colin Platt.

The Normans and the Norman Conquest - R Allen Brown.

The Battle of Hastings - Ed. Stephen Morillo.

1066 - The Year of the Three Battles - Frank McLynn.

England and its Rulers 1066-1272 - M.T. Clanchy.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography - George Smith.

The Three Edwards - Michael Prestwich.

William Rufus - Frank Barlow.

From Doomsday to Magna Carta - A.L.Poole

Edward III - Michael Packe.

John the Fearless - R. Vaughan.

The Agincourt War - Lt-Col Alfred H. Burne.

Henry V - Harold F.Hutchison.

Henry V - Christopher Allmand.

The Normans and their myth - R.H.C. Davis.

Sussex, The King's England - Arthur Mee.

Sussex Place-Names - Judith Glover.

Sussex - Desmond Seward.


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